11 min read

How to Handle Artwork Safely During A Move

Ever wondered how the Mona Lisa travels? Moving your art collection isn't just about bubble wrap and caution; it's an art in itself. Whether you're an artist, a collector, or simply an art lover relocating a cherished piece, the journey of your artwork from one wall to another demands precision, care, and a touch of expertise.
By · December 11, 2023
How to Handle Artwork Safely During A Move

Do you need to move your artwork?

We are helping thousands of Canadians, galleries and artists just like you to move their artwork anywhere across Canada. Door to door service. Fixed prices.
9.6 · 134 reviews

Here's what you'll discover:

  • Artworks and Their Moving Needs: From delicate oil paintings to robust sculptures, we cover the specifics.

  • Supplies for Safe Packing: A comprehensive list of what you'll need to protect your art.

  • Step-by-Step Packing Instructions: Detailed steps to ensure your artwork remains pristine.

  • Handling and Transportation Tips: Dos and Don'ts of art transportation, including when to consider professional help.

P.S., speaking of professional help, Top Move is like Amazon for moving services. It's where you can effortlessly connect with professionals who specialize in moving precious items like your artwork. Just a few clicks, and you'll have the best movers lined up, ready to ensure your art's safe journey.

Different Types of Artworks and Their Moving Needs

Art, in its diverse forms, requires bespoke handling and care during relocation. Let's delve into the specific needs of different types of artworks.

Canvas Art and Paintings

These are prone to cracking and smudging. It's crucial to avoid direct contact with the paint surface. Using acid-free paper and a sturdy, size-appropriate box is key for this type of canvas painting.

Watercolor art pieces are highly susceptible to water damage and fading. They should be wrapped in a water-resistant material and placed in a climate-controlled environment during transit for extra protection.

Sculptures

These require careful wrapping of each element to avoid breakage. Using soft, non-abrasive materials like foam wraps protects delicate parts of the piece.

Consider disassembling parts if possible, and ensure each component is securely braced within the crate to prevent movement.

Prints and Mixed Media

When you pack pictures, prints, and print media such as wall art, you need to be very careful. These artworks are extremely sensitive to light and humidity. UV-protective glass frames and sealed packaging are recommended for transportation.

Given their varied materials, a combination of packing techniques may be necessary. Assessing each component's vulnerability helps decide on the best packing method.

Artwork Packing Supplies

You need several packing supplies for properly packing artwork. Having the right packing materials by your side makes your moving process seamless. Here's a checklist of must-have items to pack artwork for moving.

  • Wrapping Material: Look for plastic wrap, acid-free paper, wax paper, glassine paper, packing paper, and bubble wrap as they provide a protective cushion. This is essential for artworks with raised elements or textures such as patch artwork. Consider using double layers for extra safety.

  • Sturdy Moving Boxes: You need to find the right moving box for your art piece. This can be either a flat picture box, a mirror box, or a special artwork box. Double-walled cardboard boxes also add extra strength and protection.

  • Custom Crates: For high-value or oversized artworks, custom wooden crates are a must. These should be lined with foam or other shock-absorbent materials.

  • Packing Peanuts: Biodegradable options are eco-friendly and offer good cushioning. Avoid using them directly against the artwork, as they can create static.

  • Foam: Sheets or blocks of foam can be cut to size to fit around and protect specific areas of your artwork, providing targeted protection.

  • Packing Tape: Use a heavy-duty masking tape that’s at least two inches wide for secure sealing. For more valuable pieces, consider using tamper-evident or archival tape for added security.

Top Move Tip: Don't forget to get 'Fragile', 'This Side Up', and color-coded stickers. These will help you label your art pieces once packed making it easier to identify what's inside.

How to Move Artwork: Step-by-Step Packing Instructions

Effectively packing artwork for the move requires art and science. Each step is carefully crafted to ensure the integrity and safety of your pieces. Now that you have the right supplies, it's time to start packing.

For Framed Artworks and Other Paintings

  • Organize by Size and Type: Start by sorting the pieces by size and type (canvas, framed, etc.). This helps in selecting the right artwork boxes and techniques. For instance, packing framed art is different than packing an unframed acrylic piece.

  • Start Wrapping your Artwork: Wrap your paintings with wrapping paper entirely, ensuring no part is left uncovered. For example, an acrylic painting might react with certain plastics, so acid-free paper acts as a protective barrier. If you don't have acid-free paper, you can also use brown paper or parchment paper.

  • Mark with an ‘X’ on the Frame Glass: Using blue painter's tape, create an ‘X’ over the glass of framed works. This old framer's trick helps to keep the glass shards in place, reducing the risk of damage to the painting if the glass breaks. If the artwork has a mirror, first cover it with a glass cover and then pack it inside mirror boxes.

  • Bubble Wrap for Additional Protection: Use bubble wrap with the bubbles facing out to prevent marks. Wrap each painting individually, focusing on corners and edges, as these are most prone to damage.

  • Use Cardboard Corners: Especially for framed artwork, cardboard corner protectors give an extra layer of safety against impact damage. Make sure to cover all corners of the frame.

  • Selecting the Right Box or Crate: Measure your artwork and choose a box or crate that fits right. However, if there is some room for movement, you can stuff more packing paper or crumpled newspaper.

Expert Tips:

  • Reinforced Structure with a Flat Picture Box: If you're dealing with unusually large or delicate framed artworks, consider double boxing for added protection. After wrapping the artwork and securing it with cardboard corner protectors, place it in a flat picture box. Then, nest this box inside a slightly larger moving box, filling the gap between the two boxes with crumpled newspaper or foam peanuts. This dual-layer approach significantly reduces the risk of punctures or pressure damage during the move.

  • Customized Support with Wooden Crates for Irregular Sizes: For artworks that don't conform to standard sizes or are exceptionally valuable, create a custom wooden crate. First, secure the artwork with bubble wrap and cardboard corners. Measure the wrapped piece and build a wooden crate that leaves just enough room for cushioning materials. This personalized approach ensures that even the most unusually shaped or oversized pieces are adequately protected. The sturdy nature of wooden crates also makes them ideal for long-distance moves or storage.

For Sculptures

  • Assess and Plan: Evaluate the entire sculpture, including its size, material, and fragility. For instance, a delicate clay sculpture will need different handling compared to a robust metal piece. Measuring the horizontal and vertical dimensions also helps you get a moving box of a similar size.

  • Wrap Individual Parts: Disassemble if possible, and wrap each part in bubble wrap, paying special attention to delicate areas like protruding limbs or thin elements.

  • Secure with Shrink Wrap: Apply shrink wrap to hold the bubble wrap in place, adding stability and protecting against moisture.

  • Fill Gaps with Packing Material: Anti-static foam peanuts or custom-cut foam blocks can be used to fill any voids in case the packing container is slightly larger, ensuring the sculpture remains immobile during transport.

  • Custom Crate for Larger Sculptures: Follow the Smithsonian Museum's recommendationof at least 2 inches of foam padding in a sturdy wooden crate for larger or uniquely shaped sculptures.

Expert Tips:

  • Photographic Documentation for Insurance and Tracking: Ensure each piece of framed artwork is meticulously photographed in high resolution. Include clear images from multiple angles, document dimensions, and make detailed notes of any pre-existing imperfections. Use bubble wrap and packing paper for initial protection before photographing. This step is vital for insurance purposes and assists in tracking the items during transit.

  • Weather-Resistant Labeling and Handling Instructions: Employ weather-resistant labels on all moving boxes. Clearly denote handling instructions and detailed content descriptions on each package, especially for delicate framed artwork. Secure the boxes with strong packing tape to ensure safety. This practice minimizes the risk of damage due to environmental factors and ensures proper handling by movers.

  • Layered Packing for Maximum Protection: When packing each artwork, start with a layer of packing paper followed by bubble wrap for cushioning. Place the artwork in a sturdy moving box that's appropriately sized, and seal it securely with packing tape. Ensure that the box is filled with additional packing material to prevent any movement inside during transit. This method of layered packing provides maximum protection against shocks and vibrations.

Handling and Transportation Tips for Your Artwork Moving Box

Proper handling and transportation are pivotal in preserving the integrity of your artwork. Whether you're moving a single piece or an entire collection, the way you handle and transport them can make all the difference.

Here’s how to do it right:

Lift Carefully

Always lift sculptures and framed artworks from the base or the strongest part. For example, when moving an entire sculpture, lift it from its base rather than its more delicate parts like limbs or protrusions.

TopMove Tip: For larger or awkwardly shaped pieces, always use two people to lift. This ensures balanced handling and reduces the risk of dropping the artwork.

Temperature Control

Different materials react differently to temperature changes. For instance, oil paintings can crack if exposed to cold temperatures, while heat can soften certain sculpture materials. Opt for climate-controlled vehicles for long-distance moves or temperature-sensitive pieces.

TopMove Tip: Wrap temperature-sensitive pieces in plastic wrap for an added layer of insulation against humidity and minor temperature shifts, especially useful for short trips.

Avoid Stacking

Never stack anything on top of your fragile boxes, especially in the moving truck. Even light objects can exert pressure over time, leading to indentations or damage. Store framed artwork vertically in a rack system rather than laying them flat. Sculptures should be placed on a stable, flat surface with adequate space around them.

TopMove Tip: In the moving truck, use customized supports or shelving to keep artwork upright and free from pressure, ensuring framed pieces and sculptures are securely braced.

When to Hire Professionals

When considering the transport of your artwork, the value and delicacy of each piece is important. Notably, approximately 60 percent of insurance claims for damaged art relate to its transport, highlighting the risks involved.

This is where the expertise of professional movers becomes invaluable. Top Move's network is full of professionals skilled in art transportation and experienced at handling a variety of art forms with the care they require.

Consider hiring professional movers when:

  • High-Value Artworks: If your collection includes pieces of significant monetary or sentimental value, professionals offer the security and expertise needed for safe transport.

  • Large or Unwieldy Pieces: For oversized or awkwardly shaped artworks, professionals have the right equipment and know-how to move them safely.

  • Long-Distance Moves: For interstate or international relocations, professionals can navigate logistics, customs, and other complexities.

  • Fragile or Historic Pieces: Artworks that are particularly fragile, antique, or have historical significance benefit from the specialized techniques and materials used by professional art movers.

When you hire professional movers you enjoy the benefits of expert handling and packing, customized moving, insurance , and a lot of peace of mind.

Buy Exquisite Artwork from Top Canadian Suppliers

Just moved into a spacious new home and looking to add a touch of elegance with some unique art pieces? Or maybe you want to add color to your old art collection?

These artwork businesses in Canada are known for their outstanding collections and customer service.

Michael Gibson Gallery

Established in 1984, Michael Gibson Gallery has carved a niche in the acquisition and sale of significant Canadian artworks.

Key Features/Services:

  • Expertise in collection management and market research.

  • Personalized appraisal and selling strategies for fine artworks.

  • A strong national network of partners.

Why We Recommend: This gallery is a top choice for its vast experience and commitment to tailored selling strategies, making it ideal for those seeking exceptional Canadian artwork.


King's Framing and Art Gallery

As a leading art supply store, King's Framing and Art Gallery offers a comprehensive range of artistry products under one roof.

Key Features/Services:

  • Extensive inventory of quality, affordable art and craft supplies.

  • Quick shipping and good sales offers.

  • Exceptional customer service.

Why We Recommend: They are renowned for their large selection, including rare finds, and their commitment to customer satisfaction, making them a go-to for artists and art lovers alike.


Mayberry Fine Art

With over 50 years in the field, Mayberry Fine Art is a well-established Canadian art dealer known for its expertise in the fine art market.

Key Features/Services:

  • Professional consultations for building art collections.

  • Services in custom framing, restoration, shipping, and storage.

  • Extensive experience in buying, selling, and brokering Canadian fine art.

Why We Recommend: Their comprehensive range of art-related services and longstanding market presence make them an excellent choice for those seeking to purchase, sell, or manage fine Canadian art.

Safely Relocate Your Artwork with Top Move

Congratulations on mastering the art of moving artwork! You're now equipped with the knowledge to transport your valuable pieces safely. With these insights, your artwork's journey from one place to another can be as flawless as the art itself.

Here's a quick recap of what we've covered:

  • Understand the specific needs of different artworks.

  • Use the right materials for packing.

  • Follow detailed packing instructions.

  • Handle and transport with care.

  • Know when to hire professional movers.

Now that you're ready to move your artwork with confidence, remember that Top Move is here to assist. Our platform simplifies finding experienced art movers who specialize in handling delicate and valuable pieces. Think of us as your personal guard for art relocation, ensuring your treasures are in safe hands every step of the way.

Do you need to move your artwork?

We are helping thousands of Canadians, galleries and artists just like you to move their artwork anywhere across Canada. Door to door service. Fixed prices.
9.6 · 134 reviews

What do our customers say?